At their Tuesday meeting, Fresno Parks, Recreation, and Arts Commissioners heard concerns about the draft Cultural Arts Plan and learned that an agreement with the Fresno Arts Council is forthcoming.

May 30, 2023 — Fresno Parks, Recreation, & Arts Commission

Documented by Ntsa Iab Vang

What happened: The city of Fresno’s Parks, Recreation, and Arts Commission met Tuesday to hear public comments on the draft Cultural Arts Plan, which is available for public comment through June 5.

The plan is being developed to guide the use of funds from Measure P, the 3/8-cent sales tax, which was passed by voters in 2018 and is expected to raise $38 million per year for the next 30 years.

Measure P sets aside 12% of funds raised annually for expanded access to arts and cultural programs, but the Cultural Arts Plan must be approved by the Fresno City Council before funds can be allocated.

Representatives of the Fresno Arts Council and members of the public expressed concerns about the Cultural Arts Plan draft and asked commissioners to involve the experienced council, rather than having the city establish an office within the Parks Department to oversee the use of funds.

Lilia Gonzáles Chávez, executive director of the Fresno Arts Council, said the cultural arts plan needs “serious revision” and urged the council to involve the subcommittee of the commission and the arts council in the revision process.

“The plan overall demonstrates a lack of understanding of what we already have,” she said. “It is not informed, it is not aspirational, and it shows little if any opportunity for development of new programs or strengthening of existing programs in the arts.”

Amy Kitchener, executive director of the Alliance for California Traditional Arts, said she also served on the Measure P steering committee and the intent of the measure was “to provide funding to supplement, not supplant, existing city budgets and infrastructure.”

Michele Ellis Pracy, executive director of the Fresno Art Museum, said the tax has already raised $30 million for cultural arts, which is much needed.

“The current draft is unacceptable for too many reasons, including grave misinformation and alarmingly recommending the parks department establish a new division to manage the 12%, not the Fresno Arts Council,” she said.

Several more leaders in the arts community spoke and called for a rewrite of the Cultural Arts Plan.

Aaron Aguirre, director of Parks, After School, Recreation and Community Services, said the city also received 134 online surveys and 500 physical surveys as of May 30.

Commissioner Jose Leon-Barraza said he was “shocked to see a long list of recommendations” to the draft that were “ignored.” He said they should welcome the involvement of the Fresno Arts Council, which he said was a professional and knowledgable institution.

In response to some confusion among commissioners about next steps, Assistant City Manager TJ Miller said city staff have not made changes to the draft yet based on community feedback and the draft came directly from a consultant.

She also said that within 30 days the city would have an agreement with the Fresno Arts Council, “pursuant to action taken last Thursday.”

Aguirre said all public comments are being routed to the consultant for incorporation into the draft plan, which will be ready for review by June 19. The commissioners will then be able to make further recommendations at their June 26 meeting.

The final Cultural Arts Plan will be voted on by the commission on July 17 before it goes to the Fresno City Council on July 20.

And also: Commissioner Mona Cummings asked if the Fresno Arts Council will have a role in working with the consultant on the final draft.

Aguirre said the city’s agreement with the consultant ends on June 30 and the city is working on an agreement with the Fresno Arts Council.

Up next: The Fresno Parks, Recreation and Arts Commission will meet again on June 26.

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The Fresno Documenters are a group of local residents who are trained and paid to attend and take notes at local public meetings where officials decide how to spend public money and make important decisions...